One can’t help but wonder what the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven might be. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” The prayer suggests that all is well in heaven and that we should seek that presence of God within us in this world. We understand the kingdom Jesus spoke about was not just one in heaven but a kingdom of peace and love to be realized on this earth. Love, justice, hope and healing were directives for the present moment — ways to guide us in our daily living now. Many Christians have assumed that the Kingdom of Heaven is primarily a place where we go when we die; provided we are “saved” according to the more evangelical persuasion. The reason for being good in this life according to this notion is so you can receive a heavenly reward. If you want to speculate what that reward might be in an afterlife, poets speak of pearly gates and golden harps. But the afterlife is better thought of as a matter of relationship rather than a place of things. You probably won’t be able to play golf in heaven and sink a hole in one every time you take a stroke.

Quite to the contrary, Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (that is, here) and “at hand” (that is, now). (Luke 17:20-21, Mark 1:15) Some have thought that Jesus was looking to establish an earthly utopia and that he would be anointed as the divine king of Israel. But that wasn’t the point either. Jesus is reported to have said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
So where is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven?
Cynthia Bourgeault, referencing a wonderfully insightful and contemporary suggestion by Jim Marion, writes that “the Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place.”
This is certainly true to our mystical experience of the presence of God in our lives — in our consciousness. It is a matter of resurrected living not only for the future but in the present moment. It is the experience of love and peace in our
lives, and the desire for healing and hope for all people. “The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation — not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. These are indeed Jesus’ two core teachings, underlying everything he says and does.” “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”
This column was originally published on May 25, 2017.